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Tag: ray bradbury

Love and Loss: Remembering Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, Part 2

“If I knew that today would be the last time I’d see you, I would hug you tight and pray the Lord be the keeper of your soul. If I knew that this would be the last time you pass through this door, I’d embrace you, kiss you, and call you back for one more. If I knew that this would be the last time I would hear your voice, I’d take hold of each word to be able to hear it over and over again. If I knew this is the last time I see you, I’d tell you I love you, and would not just assume foolishly you know it already.” ~Love in the Time of Cholera

Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

I’ve cried twice in my life at the news of an author’s death. The first time was when I was in high school and a friend walked up to me and said, “That author you like just died.” When I realized she meant Isaac Asimov, I started crying right there, in the middle of lunch, in front of hundreds of uncaring classmates (a fact that did little to make my misunderstood soul any more understood by my peers.)

The second time is just over two weeks ago when I woke from a restless night to read that Gabriel Garcia Marquez had died. The cover of Love in the Time of Cholera still conjures a clear memory of me perched in my studio apartment devouring the novel over the course of two sun-drenched summer days, the rising heat lending a dreamy quality to the passing hours. I remember reading that famous last line, “Forever, he said” and feeling that I was quite simply drunk on love, on language, on the bittersweet beauty of human experience. I immediately immersed myself in everything that Marquez had written, glorying in the sheer sensuality and song that underlies all his work.

love in the time of choleraIt’s been twenty some years since that first fateful encounter and, even as an avid reader, I have yet to encounter another author who can elicit that same heady blend of euphoria, grief, and breathtaking beauty. To read Marquez is to enter into a dream, both haunting and lovely, a world bordering on the impossible and brimming with promise. His titles alone—One Hundred Years of Solitude, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Of Love and Other Demons—are stories unto themselves evoking both the fantastical and the real while hinting at the profound themes explored within.

I am, of course, not alone in my adoration of Marquez’ works and news of his death was accompanied by tears the world over. Indeed, his influence on not only readers but also other writers can be seen far and wide—a fact that led me to think about those YA authors whose work captures the spirit of Marquez’s magical realism.

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Teenage Rebel With A Cause: Why I Love Banned Books Week

book burning Flickr Jason Verwey
image from Flickr user Jason Verwey

The teenage rebel has become a treasured image in American culture.  In fact, phrases like “pushing boundaries” and “classic teenage rebellion” frequently worm their way into conversations about adolescents.  Now, I generally don’t put any stock in the accuracy of stereotypes, especially about stereotypes about teenagers.  However, every nostalgic conversation among my colleagues or friends includes confessions from each individual’s brief past as a teenage rebel.  Whether it’s skipping school, sneaking out to a party, or simply dressing as bizarrely as possible, practically everyone has a memory of teenage rule-breaking–or at least rule-bending.  Even I clearly recall my version of  teenage rebellion–perhaps because the experience helped shape my current career.

Like many strange and wonderful stories, this one begins in eighth grade English class.  The curriculum included To Kill A Mockingbird and Fahrenheit 451–two novels that frequently feature in school assignments and lists of American classics.  Both titles also regularly appear on the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books list compiled by the American Library Association.  I can’t recall if we discussed book banning and challenges during our study of To Kill A Mockingbird, but the subject obviously came up during of our reading of Fahrenheit 451.  Being a passionate reader, the situation described in Fahrenheit 451–a future where books have become illegal and book burning is the specialty of firemen–was my worst nightmare.  Books were my escape, my dearest companions and my guides.  The thought of outlawing books was unthinkably horrific–especially when I learned that book banning was still a reality here in the U.S.

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New Short Story Anthologies

With the upcoming release of what is sure to be a wonderful short story anthology edited by Neil Gaiman, Unnatural Creatures, I’ve seen many interesting new short storiy anthologies geared towards young adults. Inspired and intrigued by this new spate of collections, I’ve investigated some of the newest and most appealing.

The short story can appeal to the voracious, if slightly scattered reader: it gives you just enough to keep you engaged and excited but leaves you wanting more. One could say anthologies of this kind are like tapas: multiple little delicious appetizers that by themselves wouldn’t fill you up, but put them together and they make a satisfying meal. I’ve spent my time reading through these great new short story anthologies for your tasting pleasure.

afterAfter: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
This is the perfect book for the reader who just can’t get enough dystopian or post-apocalyptic fiction. All of the selections are set after various terrible and world-ending events have taken place. Whether it be a terrible disease that turns people into vampires who hunt in packs or beetles who eat all metal (including the fillings in your teeth) or a dispatch from a resident of a world where education has deteriorated to the point of nonexistence, all are thought-provoking. This book also includes a story set in the world of Beth Revis’s Across the Universe trilogy, a treat for fans! My highlight of the book? “The Segment” by Genevieve Valentine, where news broadcasts are scripted and cast as precisely as a Hollywood blockbuster, and a popular news story brings an actor the danger of worldwide recognition.

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Remembering Ray Bradbury

Stories that stick with you over the years do so because they have some sort of truth in them, something that reaches beyond the characters in those pages. While I remember a lot of the books I’ve read over the years, there are some that stick with me a little bit more. Two of those stories are from none other than Ray Bradbury himself, who passed away at the age of 91 this week.

Fahrenheit 451 is a classic for a reason, and it’s remained in my mind since I read it in high school. While most everyone is familiar with the premise (and if you’re not, I urge you to pick it up if you have any passion whatsoever for the written word), what I took away from the book was — and still is — this: ideas are important. Maybe the most important thing in the world. Ideas are so powerful, in fact, that there are people out there who want to stop you from having them, and sometimes, they go to extremes to make that happen.

As much as Fahrenheit 451 remains in my head, it’s really Bradbury’s short story “All Summer in a Day” that stays in my heart. This is story that’s repeatedly asked about on library listservs and in “what was that book” forums on the internet. People remember a story that took place on Venus that had something to do with sunshine, and there was a girl locked in a closet. If you haven’t read it or it’s been a while, you can find the full-text here. It’s a story about how cruel children (and people) can be, about how an idea can raise suspicions within the minds of others, about how the ideas of others can also make people reconsider their own thoughts and actions. The premise is similar to Fahrenheit 451, though the execution is entirely different.

Ray Bradbury shared much more than these two stories with us.

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